Achieving business success isn't easy, but technology is evolving at an enormous speed to facilitate tasks and favor entrepreneurs, especially with virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants may seem like something new. However, it was at the Seattle World Expo in 1962 when the IBM company presented Shoebox, the first intelligent personal assistant capable of performing digital voice recognition, after its launch on the market in 1961.
What is a virtual assistant? What does a virtual assistant do?
A virtual assistant is a person or robot who offers support to businesses. Through technological improvements, and especially with the quality of the Internet, it became possible to share documents, files in the cloud, online tools that dispense paper and thus make remote work a reality.
Nowadays, entrepreneurs look for virtual assistants to help them without having someone in person working in the traditional format. It’s common for businesses of all sizes to use the support of virtual assistants. This is a relatively new profession. You may think that a virtual assistant is the person who organizes agendas, performs secretarial tasks or administrative areas in general. But whoever thinks that it is only that is wrong!
Virtual assistant skills are huge! And we can even say that the title for this topic could be: "What can't virtual assistants do for you?" since there is an immense list of tasks that these professionals can perform.
They are in charge of supporting clients on administrative and technical queries made via telephone or a chat. They are outside the company and they perform certain administrative functions as if they were one of the company's employees. As a general rule, these are people who are involved with the company when providing their services remotely.
In addition, they don't have to be physical persons, robots with artificial intelligence (AI) can perform many functions in an automated manner offering the same service as humans. These robots have a configuration to answer customer queries like they were humans.
Why do entrepreneurs need a virtual assistant for their business?
More and more entrepreneurs are recruiting remote professionals to help manage their business, and we’ll show you some of the advantages of having a virtual assistant in your team.
1. Get the most out of your resources
You can't neglect your administrative tasks. Right? If you do, your business would fall apart by not doing that bureaucratic work. So, how do we solve this dead end? There is only one answer: to hire virtual assistants. They can take on most of these tasks and the best part is that they can do it remotely. And the result? You can keep your focus on strategic matters and the virtual assistant takes the administrative tasks.
2. Cost reduction
Hiring a virtual assistant allows the entrepreneur to innovate, as well as the chance to hire without establishing a traditional employment link, without the obligations of employment laws, without the corresponding bureaucracy and without the payment of other taxes. So, one of the main reasons why entrepreneurs and companies outsource this work is because of the cost. In fact, a virtual assistant can work just a few hours or on a specific project.
Don't think that saving means paying lower wages! That is not the intention at all. Depending on the project, you’ll need a professional. The savings derive from the fact that this virtual assistant won't need transportation or parking at the expense of the company. Food is also no longer an additional cost. Not to mention that this person will not occupy a physical place in your office.
Another important saving occurs in relation to training. Typically, companies need to train their internal staff on tasks and duties after going through the hiring process. All of this costs time and money. Virtual assistants are specialists in their areas of action. In this way, a business owner doesn't need to waste time or money to train them… and they can start immediately.
Entrepreneurs hire virtual assistants to save time. For example, let's say you have a small business and you don't yet have a human resources department. The hiring process will take a lot of time! You would have to advertise a vacancy, select a resume, conduct an interview, etc.
You can hire a virtual assistant to carry out these activities. You'll have specialists who can start your work immediately, with the consequent saving of time, since they don't need to undergo long training on how to perform this function. And how they can focus only on the tasks you hired them for, they'll get the job done faster than someone juggling multiple demands. It is a victory for everyone involved.
Humans vs Bots
It is clear that human virtual assistants, whether they are remote or not, should perform tasks of greater complexity or solve some problems more efficiently... but beware: depending on the context, a bot could equal or exceed the quality of the work we give it. Sometimes tasks are too repetitive and you can redirect these low-value tasks to virtual robotic assistants.
An example of this is conversational bots or "chatbots", programs that can take messages or calls from customers, answer frequently asked questions, find and sort unstructured information and return it in natural language. These are useful in a public website, intranet, mobile application and work through all messaging channels (messenger, Whatsapp, etc).
On the other hand, hiring a freelancer implies that the professional must perform these types of tasks in the shortest time possible and with a reduced effort, to achieve their economic objectives.
Also, take into account that both the human and the robotic virtual assistant will need training. Although the human will normally learn faster at the beginning, chatbots can acquire more capabilities with less input and can connect to other artificial intelligence tools (machine learning, natural language classifier, natural language understanding, etc...) to exploit their potential and multiply their efficiency by approaching the implicit human ones.
In addition, the virtual robotic assistant will assist at any time, in several languages and to several clients simultaneously, while if we have hired a single human assistant it will depend on his or her geography, schedule, commitment to other employment providers, etc.
As with the human assistant, it’s necessary to "recruit" the most efficient virtual Bot-assistant that best suits the needs of the company. Some chatbots/voicebot providers offer very basic "express" chatbots, designed for very specific tasks. In this case, it’s necessary to take into account that they usually don't include natural language and the interaction with users is linear and simple.
If you expect the bot to understand you as a human would, you should choose a custom-made assistant bot. This type of customized assistant will interact in natural language with users and connect to many other platforms, computer systems, channels, etc.
As in many aspects of business, there is no right or wrong decision when deciding whether to hire a human virtual assistant or a bot-assistant. If the company needs the assistant to attend to highly variable customer questions, only communicates in one or two languages in its environment, the geographical area is unique and the tasks to perform change frequently, then it would be more efficient to hire a human. If, on the other hand, the tasks are repetitive, with the need to work in parallel and attend 24/7 in several languages, it’s better to consider a robotic virtual assistant.
Common activities of virtual assistants
1. Administrative tasks
The skills of virtual assistants include functions in your business such as customer service phone, appointment and meeting management, agenda management, travel booking and everything that an administrative assistant does in person, the virtual assistant can do it remotely.
2. Content creation
Content is one of the drivers of digital marketing and this is one of the reasons why companies publish posts frequently. It helps to boost the optimization of your website for the search engine and increases the driving of traffic for the website. Having someone supervise this process is a great decision within your digital strategy.
Content creation is a process that requires special attention as it involves searching for relevant topics, keywords, images, and finally, uploading your blog's article correctly. Outsourcing this service will ensure good quality content.
Have you ever thought of having a person take care of the finances of your business, creating spreadsheets for income control, taxes, accounting, etc.?
A virtual assistant specialized in finance can help you and understand your business much better through market analysis, sales and price study, etc. This initiative will offer you the keys to find new opportunities and detect threats in time to advance on safe ground.
4. Social media management
Another powerful weapon in your marketing plan is to increase the presence of your brand on social networks. That is where many of your potential clients are. And increasing your social media presence will change how the public perceives your brand.
A virtual assistant can do this job in place of a marketing agency and, ultimately, it isn't necessary to hire a marketing agency to do this task for you.
5. Market analysis
Market analysis is an essential part of any company's growth strategy. Without some insights, you’ll never know what is the best way to grow. For the entrepreneur, it’s very difficult to invest hours of his time in the analysis, at the same time trying to manage his own business.
When it comes to analysis, it is fundamental to have a trained professional who knows how to apply, compile the results, and process the data.
6. Customer service
This was one of the first jobs to hire virtual assistants. You know why? Most of the interactions made in customer service revolve around similar questions, the doubts are almost always the same and therefore, they are easily answered through a manual or a script. And if virtual assistants can't handle a certain issue, they can refer you to a second level of support.
7. Email management
It’s not difficult for unopened emails to pile up, and responding to all of them is a near-impossible mission. But depending on the content of the emails (especially if your customer service channel is by email), you have to answer in a relatively short time.
That’s why so many entrepreneurs outsource this service through virtual assistants. They can filter your emails, respond to inquiries and job requests, general questions, organize and filter your inbox. They can also run email marketing campaigns and manage email lists. The result? Have a fully functional communication channel.
What other services does a virtual assistant offer?
- Support for web pages
- Lead generation (customer search)
- Graphic design
- Pinterest management
- Management of ads in social networks (such as Facebook, and Instagram)
- Creation of landing pages
- Events organization
- Data entry
- CRM management
- And more.
It's not rocket science!
As you can see, it's an endless list! In fact, virtual assistants can do just about anything, but many of these professionals have very specific tasks based on their skills.
Having a virtual assistant in your business will allow you to save costs and time– and you’ll dedicate more time to other tasks. In addition, the great advantage is that you can hire a virtual assistant for the time and duration that your business needs.